As soon as Joe Hill’s The Fireman came out, I was at the bookstore buying my copy. My brother told me about him, as is fitting, since my brother’s the reason I read Stephen King as well. Joe Hillstrom King, or Joe Hill, wrote and published for ten years before even his publisher knew he was Stephen King’s son. I’ve enjoyed his previous books, Heart Shaped Box, Horns, and especially Nos4a2.
This novel explores what would happen if a spore infected people, causing their skin to scale over and their bodies to spontaneously combust. Chaos ensued, and people afflicted are quarantined, but some people, like the Fireman, learn to control the burn. Like all great post-apocalyptic reads, this one examines what people might do in the worst case scenario. And while Harper, the protagonist, a no-nonsense-Mary-Poppins-school-nurse realizes some people are terrible, she also discovers others redeem the human race.
One review I read compared this to a modern Lord of the Flies and I would say that’s fairly accurate as it depicts a small part of the world as a microcosm of society. There are also many references to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, as expected.
As usual, enjoy some of my favorite quotes:
- “Humanity is a germ that thrives on the very edge of catastrophe.”
- “We need kindness like we need to eat. It satisfies something in us we can’t do without.”
- “There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone ALWAYS dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”
- “I taught in a private school for decades, and with all these young people wandering about, the urge to deliver impromptu lectures is very strong.”
- “Real women, on the other hand, have all these tiresome interests of their own, and won’t follow an outline. A glumness settled upon her. It crossed her mind that she had never been Jakob’s friend or wife or lover, but only his subject,only material.”
- “The pitcher, Tom Gordon, waited with his hand on his hip while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern dragged bodies off the field.” (when she hears a young boy narrative a fictional Red Sox game on the radio)